Aiken Fall Festival Mini Prix

Christina Jason Races to the Win
Story & Photography by Pam Gleason

Aiken Fall Festival, Saturday, September 5, Aiken SC:
When Christina Jason rode into the ring at Bruce’s Field for the jump-off in the $15,000 Fenwick Equestrian Mini Prix, she had her work cut out for her. Of the 11 horses that had qualified for the round, four had already gone clean. The earliest clear stopped the clock in the mid-40-second range. Each successive rider shaved fractions off the time until it seemed like no one could complete the course any faster.

Daniel Geitner

Daniel Geitner was going to be hard to beat

Then, Daniel Geitner came in, took some daring shortcuts, galloped like a demon and finished clear with a time of 37.75, beating the fastest time before him by almost two seconds.  Christina, one of the last on course,  went two rounds afterwards.  If she was going to win, she knew she would have to fly.

“She’s going for it!” declared a spectator, as Christina raced her horse, Vancouver IV to the first fence. The chestnut sailed over, turned on a dime, and galloped forward to the next obstacle. The little horse ate up the ground, dug in on the turns and attacked each jumping effort with gusto and precision. As he and Christina headed to the final fence, the timer was ticking toward 37. It was going to be close. Up, over and clear, the pair stopped the clock at 37.609,  winning by a little more than a tenth of a second.

Christina Jason on Vancouver

Christina Jason: “I knew if I galloped very hard at one, everything would flow.”

Christina, an up-and-coming trainer who bases her Southland Stable in Aiken, has been partnered with Vancouver, a 13-year-old warmblood gelding, since this past February. She officially completed his purchase just two days before the show. Andrea King, the owner of Hollow Creek Farm in Aiken, showed him to her over the winter, and Christina knew right away that he was the horse for her.

“He’s maybe 15.2 hands,” said Christina. “So he’s tiny, but he gives you everything out there. You just can’t find horses with that much heart. He wants it just as much as I do.”

As far as his jumping style goes, Vancouver is a speed demon. “He’s almost offended if you hold him back,” Christina continued. “The faster he goes, the better he is. He loves to gallop, so I just let him gallop and stay out of his way.”

Andrea King was ringside at the mini prix, and she gave Christina some advice before her jump-off round.

“Daniel was going to be very, very hard to catch, and I knew that going in,” said Christina. “Andrea kept saying ‘You need to catch ‘one’ going at a very fast and very forward pace.’ So when I went in, I knew if I galloped very hard at one, everything would flow, and it really did. I got stuck a little at the double, and lost some time there, but Vancouver made up for it. When I landed after the last fence, I kind of celebrated, because I knew in my gut that I had gotten it.”

Christina Jason and Vancouver

Christina and Vancouver over the final fence

The mini prix was one of the featured classes of the Aiken Fall Festival I, a horse show put on by Equus Events. This show, which ran from September 3-6, was the first competition to be staged at Bruce’s Field in the new Aiken Horse Park. The park is dedicated to the late Bruce Duchoissois, a devoted horseman and competitor who dreamed of having a first class horse show venue in his chosen hometown of Aiken. The facility, which broke ground in the spring, is still under construction and won’t have its official grand opening until May 2016 when it will hold an old-fashioned charity horse show. Although all of the permanent stabling is not yet up and the landscaping is yet to be completed, the rings were ready for action this September and received a warm response from competitors and spectators who praised the footing and the atmosphere.

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Maryann Charles and FVF Sailor Man, winners of the $5,000 Red Pepper Grill Welcome Stakes, placed third in the mini prix.

Other featured competitions over the weekend included the $10,000 National Hunter Derby (Julie Curtain won aboard Charlotte Warren’s Enticement) and the $5,000 Red Pepper Grill Welcome Classic (Maryann Charles and FVF Sailor Man took home the top prize.)

The action continues this week with the Aiken Fall Festival II, which runs from September 10-13. This will be a bigger weekend, featuring the SCHJA Governor’s Cup Finals, the $5,000 Tack Room Welcome Classic, the $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Derby and the Bridles and Birdies Relay race to benefit the First Tee of Augusta. The top class will be the inaugural $25,000 RBD Cup Grand Prix presented by Jack Wetzel, the Aiken Horse Park Foundation and the Duchossois family. This will take place on Saturday evening, September 12 in conjunction with a cocktail party.

The event is sure to be exciting. Christina says that she and Vancouver will be back to try to win it all before heading off to more competitions in Tryon.

winner

Christina Jason rides past the crowd of spectators at Bruce’s Field

For more information, visit Equus Events.